The Last Girlfriend on Earth by Simon Rich

lastgirlfriendThis was my first dive into the words of Simon Rich, despite consistently ranking the show he created (that is based on this collection), Man Seeking Woman, as one of my top five favorite TV shows. This is a collection of humorous, laugh-out-loud stories that largely revolve around heterosexual relationships from the perspective of a dorky man in his 20s/30s.

Because I knew I loved the tone of Man Seeking Woman, the absurdist comedy featured in this book was something I was familiar with and enjoyed. A lot of the storylines for the show were lifted from this collection, which makes some of the particularly absurd examples easier to visualize in my brain since I had already seen them depicted in the show.

Within the first 6 pages of the collection, I had already laughed out loud three times. The jokes I laughed the most at were New York situational humor though, so they may not be as funny to someone who hasn’t spent a lot of time in the city, but oof did I love them.

Mini Review: The Wide Window by Lemony Snicket

widewindowThe Wide Window falters in comparison to its predecessors. While I laughed out loud a few times with The Reptile Room, I never even chuckled with The Wide Window. While I obviously still love the series, this is one of the weaker showings because of a few bits: 1) as an adult, I find the grammar quirks of Aunt Josephine are awfully annoying, but I’m sure the youthful grammar snob that I was loved it as a kid, 2) the big plot twist with Aunt Josephine happens much earlier in the book than I would’ve thought which makes the narrative flow strange, and 3) the ending was resolved a bit too quickly and smoothly as if it were hastily strewn together.

All that said, there were some quotes that really stuck with me even if this story won’t. Most of my favorite quotes were coincidentally from Chapter 5.

“Tears are curious things, for like earthquakes or puppet shows they can occur at any time, without any warning and without any good reason.” (p. 79)

“Oftentimes, when people are miserable, they will want to make other people miserable, too. But it never helps.” (p. 74)

“To have each other in the midst of their unfortunate lives felt like having a sailboat in the middle of a hurricane, and to the Baudelaire orphans this felt very fortunate indeed.” (p. 214)

“Aunt Josephine had been so careful to avoid anything that she thought might harm her, but harm had still come her way.” (p. 79)

“She was so afraid of everything that she made it impossible to really enjoy anything at all.” (p. 193)

Mini Review: Core Knowledge and Conceptual Change, edited by David Barner and Andrew Scott Baron

coreknowledgeI read most of this as the textbook for a graduate course on Cognitive Development. As someone who was new to studying core knowledge and conceptual change, I thought this book did a great job of including the different studies that have led to current thoughts in the field. Each piece is composed by different students of Susan Carey’s, meaning that the tone and writing style shifts from chapter to chapter. The sequential flow between chapters didn’t always make sense, so I recommend picking and choosing which chapters you want to use and arranging them in whatever order is best for your purposes. My favorite chapters were 4. Bundles of Contradiction by Andrew Schtulman & Tania Lombrozo, 8. Different Faces of Language in Numerical Development by Susan Levine and Renée Baillargeon, and 9. How Numbers Are Like the Earth by Barbara Sarnecka.

Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman by Anne Helen Petersen

unrulywomenBuzzfeed writer Anne Helen Petersen covers a range of “unruly” women, using celebrities to describe how society reacts now and has historically to different types of unruly women. In the author’s own words, the women in the book, “spark feelings of fascination and repulsion” and are “explicit and implicit alternatives to the ‘new domesticity.'” (p 10).

The entire collection felt like an extended long read and each section is broken into chapters that feature a specific celebrity and then culturally and historically situates their corresponding label. I was familiar with all of those profiled which probably helped me eagerly approach each of the essays. Because of how this felt like a series of long reads, I recommend reading each piece as a stand-alone and not concurrently. Set aside 20-30 mins to read a chapter and then come back to the book the next day to read the next standalone piece. Otherwise, it feels repetitive and the book as a whole becomes less shiny.

For me, the standout is the piece on Kim Kardashian and her “performance of pregnancy” which discusses how publicly being pregnant has evolved since the beginning of pregnancy depictions (the Virgin Mary), to how pregnancy was omitted and banned from media enactments, to how Demi Moore’s naked, 7-month pregnant body on a magazine cover completely changed the public performance. Petersen discusses the emergence of “cute pregnancies” with cute, slim bodies and compares and contrasts Kim Kardashian to Kate Middleton, who was cutely pregnant at the same time as Kim’s unruly pregnancy. Compared to the rest of the pieces, this chapter had the best integration of the history of celebrity than any of the other chapters.

I found Petersen’s piece on Jennifer Weiner to be the most unlike anything I’ve read elsewhere and I found myself sending multiple quotes from the essay to a friend. The Weiner chapter had the most sociological influence, demonstrated by comparing mass market books to the “high” culture of books marketed to the “educated” classes. As someone who reads a lot, this was a very necessary reflection on what’s allowed to be a “good book.”

Overall, I recommend this book – as long as you spread out consuming each of its chunks instead of devouring it in one sitting.

I ranked the pieces in order of my perception of their quality below. I didn’t necessarily rank the pieces on the celebrities I liked the best as the highest (i.e. Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer are probably my favorites, but their chapter was my least favorite):
1. Kim Kardashian (Too Pregnant), 2. Serena Williams (Too Strong), 3. Jennifer Weiner (Too Loud), 4. Nicki Minaj (Too Slutty), 5. Hillary Clinton (Too Shrill), 6. Melissa McCarthy (Too Fat), 7. Caitlyn Jenner (Too Queer) (later in the chapter, Petersen categorizes her as probably least unruly, but counterparts on her show are), 8. Madonna (Too Old), 9. Lena Dunham (Too Naked), 10. Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer (Too Gross).

For more, check out http://www.girlwithabookblog.com!

Disclaimer: I was provided with an Advance Reader Copy of this book for free from the Penguin First to Read program. All opinions expressed in the following review are my own and have not been influenced by Penguin.

Mini Review: Do What You Want by Ruby Tandoh and Leah Pritchard

Screen Shot 2017-05-28 at 5.15.45 PMI had to stop all of my plans the day I was reading this because this was SO GOOD, but it also made me want to collapse into a puddle of tears. Reading about other people’s mental health always makes me feel some type of way — comforted by feeling seen through shared experiences but shattered that so many people have these same experiences and feelings. That said, it was great to see a range of different types of mental health covered (in addition to the heavily talked about depression and anxiety), along with the factors that can contribute to issues developing and the aftermath that can be caused after issues emerge. This is primarily a zine (though can it technically be a zine if it has a ISBN number?) about mental health with a few recipes sprinkled throughout, contrary to my friend’s and my belief that it would be an equally balanced food and mind zine since one of the editors is Great British Bake Off‘s Ruby Tandoh.

Coffee in the photo is courtesy of Chicago’s Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits and will be included in a future coffee review post of all of the coffee beans I’ve tried for my cold brew creations.

Mini Review: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Volume 1: The Crucible

chillingadventuresofsabrinaI thought I really liked Afterlife with Archie until I read this volume of Sabrina’s adventures. I liked the bits of Sabrina that were filtered into Afterlife and I LOVED this tome entirely about the Spellman family (yep, the same family you know and maybe aspired to be a part of if you were a witchy child like me when watching Sabrina the Teenage Witch). It’s a dark, bloody, sexy, and twisted take on Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Childhood Bri couldn’t have handled it, but Current Bri couldn’t get enough. I devoured this first chunk of unpredictable stories and can’t wait to see what comes next in Volume 2.

[the best of] dear coquette: shady advice from a raging bitch who has no business answering any of these questions

Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 11.29.17 AMI picked up this book form of a long running advice column without being aware of the source material – it was on a display at my local library and I found the cover compelling (yep, judged the book by its cover!) so I snatched it up and dove in, enjoying the segmented chunks that allow you to quickly read when you had the time and easily pause whenever was necessary (aka a perfect type of reading when you’re balancing grad school and life).

I definitely enjoyed the vibe of Dear Sugar’s Tiny Beautiful Things (one of my favorite reads of 2016) better but I’m sure this collection will be better appreciated by others. The book reprints questions and answers from Dear Coquette, formerly Coke Talk, with a readership that seems to skew a bit younger with a few questions about high school life and plentiful college related questions. I liked the responses to these younger questions that predominantly were things like “omg have the type of your life with your young love you lil fluff ball!” but then I also found some of the questions, answers, and situations described to be gross things I hope I forever avoid. The book seems to be very hetero-focused, but so are the submitted questions.

While the author’s advice sometimes rubbed me the wrong way, the writer is very aware of that, as seen by these quotes where she describes her advice-giving strategy: “I’m wrong all the damn time” (p. 331), “I’m as completely full of shit as everyone else” (p. 335), and finally, “I’m happy to provide a surrogate background long enough for them (the readers, advice seekers) to feel what it’s like to stand up for themselves” (p. 326).

The book is organized into sections which helped categorize the questions and allowed the book to flow smoothly: Love, Sex, Drugs, Dating, Relationships, Breakups, Friends, Family, Work, Mental, Physical, Spiritual, Individual, Greater Good, and Coquette (about the anonymous writer).

Here’s a link to my favorite piece from the whole book that felt like some very necessary bluntness, and very much provided the surrogate backbone the author wants to give her readers: http://dearcoquette.com/on-not-being-a-doormat/

Some of my other favorite quotes are included below:

“If you live your life trying to avoid the possibility of future pain, you will end up a numb and timid creature without any stories worth telling.” (p. 105)

“[Q:] How do you know when to give up on someone? [A:] When they’ve shown you who they are, and it isn’t enough.” (p. 143)

“The relationship isn’t boring. Life is boring, and you’re just now noticing it for the first time as an adult because you aren’t being distracted by some youthful flavor of chaos.” (p. 144)

p.s. I think I might start reviewing the delicious coffees I use to make my amazing cold brew coffees that I indulge in when I read on weekend mornings? Good idea or best idea?